From the President ...
In the fall of 2018, the federal government released its Health and Biosciences Economic Strategy (HBEST). Health and Biosciences is one of a number of topics that have been addressed at strategy roundtables. This strategy was the result of consultation and the work of a distinguished panel made up of:
The headline on the federal economic strategy roundtable website describes the strategy’s intent as “Positioning Canada to be a global leader in health/bio-sciences innovation through long-term sustainable growth driven by the collaboration of health/bio-sciences companies and partners.” For those of you who have not read the report, I encourage you to read the full report.
The strategy also identifies a series of barriers to growth in the Health and Biosciences industry sector. We see many of these on a provincial as well as national scale:
- Complex regulatory, reimbursement and procurement processes impede the adoption of innovations
- A risk-averse procurement culture prioritizes short-term focus on cost rather than broader considerations of value
- Disconnected digital health systems inhibit the collection, connection and analysis of data needed to inform innovation decision making
- Skills shortages and lack of access to executive level talent hinder the sector’s competitiveness
- Limited access to capital leads many Canadian firms to exit the market through mergers or acquisitions rather than accrue value domestically
The report provides a series of recommendations to overcome these barriers. For all intents and purposes, one would have a hard time arguing with any of them. The strategy is well thought out and well written. However, there are other issues that need to be addressed in concert with this strategy or should be part of this strategy to enable this industry to move ahead a much larger way in Canada. These additional thoughts include:
- Addressing the disconnect between health and economic departments at both federal and provincial levels. Actions and policies of regulatory ministries tend, at times, to be at odds with economic ministries;
- Putting a stake in the ground (similar to what countries such as Singapore have done) in announcing to the world a deliberate goal to make Canada a preferred location for health and biosciences industry attractiveness and growth;
- Partnering with the provinces and territories, as far as possible, to implement this strategy;
- Identifying a clear investment attraction and development initiative to foster the growth of domestic companies and establish “anchor multinational tenants” in Canada; and finally,
- Identify a political champion for Alberta’s and Canada’s “Innovation Agenda” and give them the mandate to move the innovation agenda forward working with their Caucus and Cabinet colleagues.
Canada has great potential to diversify and grow its economy. What it takes includes bold and deliberate actions otherwise, the HBEST strategy will follow the path of others in the past, which have ended up drifting away in a cloud of good intentions but conflicting policy direction.
President & CEO